N.Y. restaurant group to settle EEOC sexual harassment suit

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    Reprints

    EEOC

    A New York restaurant group has agreed to pay $125,000 to settle a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit against a restaurant group that charged one of its operation’s head chefs with sexual harassment.

    The agency said Friday that the head chef of Liberty Warehouse, a popular Brooklyn wedding venue operated by Liberty Events LLC, allegedly subjected a class of female kitchen staff to sexual harassment and sex discrimination that included unwanted touching, sexual comments, throwing objects at the women and belittling them based on their sex in front of coworkers.

    The EEOC also said the head chef made a female employee’s raises contingent on her sleeping with him, and when she refused, he withheld a bonus, stopped assigning her chores, and ultimately fired her.

    The agency said company management refused to act when she reported this behavior and asked it to stop the harassment and reinstate her.

    The EEOC alleged the restaurant group did not have an anti-discrimination policy or training that might have prevented or corrected these alleged unlawful acts throughout this period.

    The EEOC said the three-and-half-year consent decree entered in the case includes the creation of a $125,000 claims fund for backpay and emotional distress and other damages suffered by the harmed employees. It also includes substantial nonmonetary relief, including the creation of antidiscrimination policies, the agency said.

    In addition to Liberty Warehouse, the Liberty Events group includes Manhattan restaurants and The Water Club, The River Café and Pershing Square event spaces.

    EEOC Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein said in a statement, “Restaurants and event spaces ignore improper behavior in their kitchens at their own risk for such misconduct often involves unlawful discrimination, including not only sexual harassment but also demeaning treatment based on an employee’s protected characteristics.” 

    The restaurant group’s attorneys could not be reached for comment.